September 5, 2010

Chip's 10 Snap Judgments from the Rice game

1. From this point of view, Kenny Vaccaro needs to be the nickel. Aaron Williams needs to replace Chykie Brown at right corner, and leave Curtis Brown at left corner.

Vaccaro shows up on almost every play. Whether it's defense, special teams or helping the band find its seats. The guy can do it all. And the defense was absolutely sick when Vaccaro was in the nickel and Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown were at the corners.

In that set, Texas forced the fumble that Keenan Robinson returned for a TD. (Vaccaro made two big plays right before that one, including a 4-yard tackle for loss.)

Chykie got an earful from Duane Akina after giving up the long pass. Sit him down and let him get his head together. Tough love. You don't bench him. Rotate him in every third series. But the majority of the time, it has to be Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown at the corners and Vaccaro at the nickel.

(This could end up being a spilled blood vs. new blood battle. But the best 11 on the field calls for Vaccaro, not Chykie, at this moment.)

2. Cody Johnson doesn't cut back well enough to be the lead guy at Texas.

He is a perfect short-yardage guy, and will serve a big purpose in the fourth quarter when defenses are tired. But Texas needs a back who can cut, and that's Tre' Newton and Foswhitt Whittaker.

3. I said before the game if Texas didn't average 5 yards per carry in the running game against a defense that ranked 102nd nationally against the run last year, that would be reason for mild concern.

UT averaged 4.3 ypc as a team, and the two leading ball carriers - Tre' Newton (18 carries for 61 yds) averaged 3.4 ypc, and Cody Johnson (15 carries for 59 yds) averaged 3.9 ypc.

Fozzy Whittaker got reps as the game wore on, and averaged 5.7 ypc (9 carries for 51 yards).

Texas ran the ball well on first down between the 20s at times. But where it wanted to impose its will the most - in short-yardage and scoring situations - Texas didn't do it.

(a) Marquise Goodwin was dropped for minus-4 yards on first down from the Rice 30 after Keenan Robinson's interception. Texas ends up kicking a 51-yard field goal.

(b) The blown first-and-goal from the Rice 4 in the second quarter. (No points, turnover on downs.)

(c) UT can't pick up third-and-2 from its own 25 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter as Tre' Newton runs for 1 yard. Punt.

(d) From the Rice 27 on second-and-10, Tre' Newton gets stuffed for a 1-yard gain. Drive ends with Justin Tucker missing a 44-yard field goal.

(e) On second-and-5 from the Rice 8 in the fourth quarter, Fozzy Whittaker is stuffed for no gain. Gilbert then throws an incompletion and Texas settles for a 26-yard field goal after having first-and-10 at the Rice 13.

(f) With backup QB Case McCoy in the game in the fourth quarter, Tre' Newton and Cody Johnson combine to run for 3 yards on first- and second down, followed by a McCoy incompletion. Punt from the Texas 45.

Lots of work to be done.

If there's some good news, the negative runs were down - only two (the 4-yard losses by Johnson and Goodwin).

4. As good as Garrett Gilbert was in the second half of the BCS national title game, he leveled off in the second half of the Rice game.

Gilbert was 9-of-12 passing in the first half but just 5 of 11 in the second half and was 0-of-3 on third down passes in the second half. That will have to get better before Sept. 18.

5. An interesting note from Saturday's game. The only passes over the middle seemed to be the deep passes to Malcolm Williams and John Chiles.

Most of Gilbert's passes were to the outside. In college, you have to make a living with passes over the middle, even if they are checkdowns.

That's also where the inside receiver makes his living. And that inside receiver position (John Chiles and Mike Davis) caught only one pass, a long one to Chiles for 31 yards that set up a TD.

Gilbert missed badly on some deep outs. But maybe Texas was saving the routes over the middle for Wyoming or Texas Tech ... or for some post Labor Day celebration or something.

6. A mixed day from K Justin Tucker.

He made a 51-yarder. He missed a 54-yarder, which is not a crime. He barely missed a 44-yarder. (He actually raised his hands as if he thought he'd made that one.) He made a 26-yard chip shot.

None of his kickoffs reached the end zone, consistently falling at the 4 or 5 yard line. With a breeze at his back, those are touchbacks. But we had heard from coaches he might have the leg strength for touchbacks into a slight breeze.

The kickoffs were a concern Saturday because Rice's Shane Turner averaged 20 yards per return, and Rice's starting field position on four of Tucker's kickoffs was well beyond the 20 (34, 24, 31, 25 and 30). The first and last kickoff, Texas was able to hold Rice to the 15 and 19 yard lines.

7. Punt and kick coverage should get ironed out as coaches figure out which young players they can trust on those units.

Texas got nothing out of its kick return Saturday because Rice refused to kick to Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe.

Even though Aaron Williams fumbled a punt return, he and Curtis Brown both showed flashes handling that duty. It's nice to have options.

8. There is work to be done at the DT spot next to Kheeston Randall. Calvin Howell really needs to come on.

9. Left tackle Kyle Hix did not dominate his man on Saturday.

He struggled against the speed of Rice DE Cheta Ozougwu (6-2, 255) and allowed Garrett Gilbert to get knocked down a couple times. Gilbert did not take a sack.

Mason Walters had a killer pancake in the first half when he pulled from his right guard position. Walters enjoyed it, too.

10. The ball was thrown once to WR Mike Davis, and it was incomplete. Good things come to those who wait.

If Malcolm Williams can keep having games like that one, he'll be hard to take off the field. John Chiles made a nice grab on his 31-yarder to the Rice 1, taking a good hit and hanging onto the football.

All in all, the receivers had a good day. Can't remember a drop. I remember some uncatchable balls. But I don't recall a drop.

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